The recent news about wealthy/celebrity parents paying to have their children accepted into colleges via fraudulent methods has gotten me thinking. My first thought is, "Wait, isn't this old news? I thought we all knew this was going on." My second thought is the stuff of this post: a thread around the larger concept of parents' removing obstacles out of the way of their children, sometimes called "snowplow parenting." What happens when parents move from being a background source of support and guidance to a front-line player in their children's affairs? When does help become harmful?
I recently completed Brene Brown's Dare To Lead (read it; it's wonderful and you will be better for it). Within the book's beautiful contents are a few pages dedicated to Values from which we choose to intentionally conduct ourselves. The reader is asked to select two Values that resonate with them, and challenged to curate a life that is in harmony with those chosen Values. If a relationship or a business decision does not align, it might be changed, or cut out entirely. The exercise brings up the importance of having a plan - an intention - for who and how we want to be in our limited time on this planet.
It’s no accident that many of us get a little freaked out about making changes or approaching transitions in our daily lives. The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, a tool used by doctors to gauge stress levels and the probability of stress-related health breakdowns, directly correlates physical health with relatively low amounts of life change. That said, the avoidance of change can also lead to missing out on awesome opportunities to grow, learn, and experience new things.
Self-assertiveness is a major theme in my work with clients. I work predominantly with clients with issues with eating, and it is very common for clients with issues with eating to "restrict" their emotions and thoughts, resulting in unwanted bingeing or purging behaviors. Learning to speak up for oneself is an important part of the healing process. I've also found that, among the skill sets that I encourage, it is probably among the most difficult to learn and to execute. So why is it so hard to speak up? What I've found is that we shy away from speaking our minds for four core reasons:
February is not a stretchy month. It's cold all of the time, and we're indoors alot, and things can start to feel a little cramped. With all this time to huddle up, it's a very good month for some intentional emotional work and self-reflection. How about considering how to take a leap and put yourself out there a bit more? Here are four ways to stretch out and give yourself the space you deserve, emotionally speaking.
So, it's Valentine's Day. The holiday is notoriously demonized, and I can't say that I'm a super-fan myself (I typically begrudge any days that dictates that I'm supposed to be doing or buying or recognizing something specific). That said, I do believe that taking intentional time to show love and gratitude for your people is an important and worthwhile exercise, any day of the year. Below are five different ways that individuals can demonstrate love for one another, based on their personal preferences and style of giving/receiving love. The 5 "love languages" described below are based on Dr. Gary Chapman's book, "The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts."
One of my best friends is having a hard time. I've been talking to him on the phone about this problem recently (a year ago I decided to bring phone calls back as my primary mode of communication - best decision ever), processing and laughing and complaining together. At the end of our last rather long conversation about his current situation, he apologized to me. "Sorry to talk about this again," he lamented. "Next time we'll talk about something else, I promise." That's cool. But I mean, I hope not.
Parents frequently ask me for support in figuring out how best to set rules and expectations for their teenagers. This can be tough to navigate, especially if the teenager pushes back (which they are wont to do) or the parents aren't sure how they "should" approach boundary setting (there are no "shoulds"; there is no manual). I humbly submit, from a therapist's perspective, thoughts on how to create a safe structure from which teenagers can explore:
"This should cheer you up for sure. See I've got you're old ID, and you're all dressed up like The Cure." - Ben Folds Five This week we're continuing the discussion of why the teenage years are valuable, interesting, and not as scary as they may initially appear. Today's theme: Giving teenagers room to express their (many) identit(ies). "Moratorium" is a term that describes the identity status of ever-changing: trying on a million different hats until one is found that fits. In essence, this period of human development in the adolescent years is the one in which styles, tastes, beliefs, and allegiances are unpredictable and mercurial, shifting on any given day, often without warning. This can be mind-boggling to some adults (though I dare those adults to look at your high school yearbook and check out your own version of this time of life), and, as a result, adolescents are sometimes easily dismissed as flighty and unreliable, and their many hats are laughed off or, worse, forbidden.
"They don't know anything yet. They're just kids." Hmmm. I've had the pleasure of working with teenagers and young adults for the bulk of my career as a therapist. In that time, I've learned so much about the value of this unique developmental period, as well as the difficulty that many adults have navigating relationships with teens. So, I've decided to do a five-parter about teenagers: working with them, encouraging them, fostering their positive development, and getting to the other side of adulthood unscathed (or with as few scars as possible). And so, part one of five, on interacting with teenagers: